Photo by Shane Harms
Mayor Murray enjoying smoked salmon at the Fishermen's Terminal Centennial Celebration.

Fishermen's Terminal celebrates 100 years of maritime service

May 28 - Over 500 attendees met in a large tent near dock six at Fishermen's Terminal to celebrate 100 years of the facility’s maritime service.

Fishermen and maritime workers mingled with politicians and industry heavies, sitting down to a lunch of smoked salmon and an assortment of salads and cake. Some attendees came right off the dock to eat and listen to the speakers.

Elected officials, maritime shareholders, and clergymen spoke to the crowd about success and good fortune of the maritime industry. Some of the speakers included Pastor Erik Weiberg of Ballard First Lutheran, Gov. Jay Inslee, Mayor Ed Murray, Kris Mullan of Alaska Longline Company, Pat Burns of Blue North Fisheries, and Father Tony Haycock of the Catholic Seamen’s Club.

The mast of the message from the speakers was that after 100 years of operating as one of the Pacific Northwest hubs of the maritime industry, Fishermen’s Terminal remains a significant, viable and sustainable economic contributor to the City of Seattle and Washington State.

Fishermen’s Terminal opened January 10, 1914 and included 1,800 feet of moorage for 100 boats and a two-story warehouse for nets and equipment. Railways leading to the docks were constructed and insular businesses around Fishermen’s Terminal thrived. The docks were one of the very first projects made by the Port of Seattle, which had been assembled three years prior. The project was spurred by Puget Sound Purse Seine Fishermen's Association, which included a large number of Norwegian fishermen living in Ballard. They wanted a public facility where they could find mooring to do repairs and store nets and equipment. At the time there was no facility to handle the fleet of purse seiners and the fishermen were at the mercy of private moorage owners who gouged fishermen with expensive rates. A public facility was needed.

Since then the port has expanded and now serves more than 600 commercial and recreational vessels. Most if not the entire Alaskan fishing fleet moors at the site, and the facility continues to be an essential hub for fishermen and the maritime industry. Today the maritime industry makes up a third of Washington’s economy and provides over 148 thousand jobs, 90 thousand of which are indirect or induced jobs paying $4 billion in wages a year.

Governor Inslee said that he has a nostalgic connection to the industry and that some of his fondest memories are of his grandfather telling fishing tales of beingon the boat, Arrow.

“Its truly amazing to see the transition from those old wooden plank beautiful boats, to being a northern leader where we are building some of the most environmentally friendly, most intellectually forward thinking vessels in human history. This transition of the last 100 years happening right here in Fishermen’s Bay is something to be very, very proud of, and we brag about Boeing and we brag about Microsoft but we have some of the most cutting edge people right here.”

“Because of that transition we need to think of this as just the first century of Fishermen’s Terminal. The next century is going to be just as bright and it needs to be because we know the economic vitality and importance to our regions. The maritime industry is $15 billion in the state of Washington and $8.6 billion of that is in the fishing industry. We are fishing in Alaska and fishing in the North Pacific, but we’re living and create jobs right here in the State of Washington, and we need to look at this as a main stem of economic development,” said Inslee.

Inslee commented on the sustainability is a key role in the vitality of the regions fishing industry and commended that the stewardship of the people make that have made it happen.

“I am very happy to congratulate this industry on being some of the most progressive people in having a sustainable fishery. Nobody in human history has done such a great job of maintaining a sustainable fishery in the Pacific. … It has happened because you have progressive leaders that understand you want to have something for the next hundred years. “

After spending some time at the White House, Mayor Murray made it back to Seattle for the event. He said “ We know this is a great facility and we know it’s a great part of our history. From the very beginning of this city fishing has been what has made it a great city.”

“That’s why we had the maritime and manufacturing summit a few weeks ago; that’s why this City has invested $60 million into modernizing this facility; and that’s why we look forward to dealing with issues of freight and dealing with issues of working with our maritime industry so it remains here.”

Furthermore Mayor Murray declared that he wants to protect the maritime industry from potential condo building that could threaten its vitality.

“In the last 100 years we have built the largest fishing fleet in North America, but I want to make a commitment to you: we are going to continue to have the largest fishing fleet in North America right here in Seattle, Washington. … I don’t want to be mayor four years from now where we simply have condos where we once had maritime industry. I want to be mayor four years from now where we actually have an industry. I look forward to working with you to make that a reality.”

The signs of Fishermen’s Terminal still lively with action were seen outside the tent. Under the afternoon sun fishermen mended purse seine nets with large dagger-like “needles” sewing up holes in the 18 hundred feet of cotton or nylon mesh that make up one large Puget Sound net. Salmon fishing season starts in June and seiners are busy preparing nets to bring in this year’s haul.

Not far from the fishermen working on their net was another man, Warren Aackervik of Ballard Oil, who “supervised” Anthony’s Restaurant (caterers of the event) staff tending the alder smokers that contained the delicious salmon attendees enjoyed.

Warren said that the industry remains a vital and a tidal force in the community and state economy but that more people need to realize and prioritize its importance.

“We have City plans for bicycles and pedestrians that affect how we operate, but there is still no plan for freight. It’s still not being considered and that’s going to be needed if we want the industry to remain healthy in the future,” said Aackervik.

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